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Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper

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  • AlbionWood
    The simple answer is, planes. Handplanes are known from Viking Age archaeology (and earlier), and it s pretty easy to leave a very smooth flat surface with a
    Message 1 of 12 , May 14, 2012
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      The simple answer is, planes. Handplanes are known from Viking Age
      archaeology (and earlier), and it's pretty easy to leave a very smooth
      flat surface with a sharp handplane on air-dried wood.

      The longer answer is to consider the entire process by which wood was
      prepared for a project, and the kinds of projects undertaken, and
      realize that the kind of smoothing accomplished by sandpaper was
      basically never needed. This is true not only for the Viking era, but
      most later medieval work as well.

      Most of the (flat-surface) medieval wooden objects I've been able to
      examine displayed plane-tracks; it was clear that no further surface
      prep had been done after planing. Carved work is of course not sanded
      or scraped, as nothing beats the surfaces left by the chisel.

      I'm not a turner and haven't examined as many turned objects, but most
      of the ones I have seen displayed very obvious tool-marks, indicating
      they had not been surfaced after turning.

      Cheers,
      Tim


      On 5/14/2012 12:56 PM, kenneth bain wrote:
      > Before the first sand paper(glass paper) what did the earlier woodworker, like during the Viking age, use to smooth thier projects?
    • d6crawler
      I ve heard horsetail fern was used as an abrasive. It seems like it would turn things green but maybe they dried it first? Daniel
      Message 2 of 12 , May 14, 2012
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        I've heard horsetail fern was used as an abrasive. It seems like it would turn things green but maybe they dried it first?

        Daniel


        From: AlbionWood <albionwood@...>
        To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 6:26 PM
        Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper

         
        The simple answer is, planes. Handplanes are known from Viking Age
        archaeology (and earlier), and it's pretty easy to leave a very smooth
        flat surface with a sharp handplane on air-dried wood.

        The longer answer is to consider the entire process by which wood was
        prepared for a project, and the kinds of projects undertaken, and
        realize that the kind of smoothing accomplished by sandpaper was
        basically never needed. This is true not only for the Viking era, but
        most later medieval work as well.

        Most of the (flat-surface) medieval wooden objects I've been able to
        examine displayed plane-tracks; it was clear that no further surface
        prep had been done after planing. Carved work is of course not sanded
        or scraped, as nothing beats the surfaces left by the chisel.

        I'm not a turner and haven't examined as many turned objects, but most
        of the ones I have seen displayed very obvious tool-marks, indicating
        they had not been surfaced after turning.

        Cheers,
        Tim

        On 5/14/2012 12:56 PM, kenneth bain wrote:
        > Before the first sand paper(glass paper) what did the earlier woodworker, like during the Viking age, use to smooth thier projects?


      • Lynda Fjellman
        Horsetail isn t really a fern.  As far as how it works as a wood smoother I couldn t say, but it was used as a pot scrubber.  It has a lot of silica in it.
        Message 3 of 12 , May 14, 2012
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          Horsetail isn't really a fern.  As far as how it works as a wood smoother I couldn't say, but it was used as a pot scrubber.  It has a lot of silica in it.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equisetum

          It it native here in Western Washington and I have seen it in S. California as well.

          Ilaria


           
          I've heard horsetail fern was used as an abrasive. It seems like it would turn things green but maybe they dried it first?

          Daniel


          From: AlbionWood <albionwood@...>
          To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 6:26 PM
          Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper

           
          The simple answer is, planes. Handplanes are known from Viking Age
          archaeology (and earlier), and it's pretty easy to leave a very smooth
          flat surface with a sharp handplane on air-dried wood.

          The longer answer is to consider the entire process by which wood was
          prepared for a project, and the kinds of projects undertaken, and
          realize that the kind of smoothing accomplished by sandpaper was
          basically never needed. This is true not only for the Viking era, but
          most later medieval work as well.

          Most of the (flat-surface) medieval wooden objects I've been able to
          examine displayed plane-tracks; it was clear that no further surface
          prep had been done after planing. Carved work is of course not sanded
          or scraped, as nothing beats the surfaces left by the chisel.

          I'm not a turner and haven't examined as many turned objects, but most
          of the ones I have seen displayed very obvious tool-marks, indicating
          they had not been surfaced after turning.

          Cheers,
          Tim

          On 5/14/2012 12:56 PM, kenneth bain wrote:
          > Before the first sand paper(glass paper) what did the earlier woodworker, like during the Viking age, use to smooth thier projects?




        • Stuart
          ... I place my horsetail grass in a loose weave bag and hang it under the deck to dry before using it. I first heard of it while attending a lute construction
          Message 4 of 12 , May 14, 2012
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            On 5/14/2012 3:50 PM, d6crawler wrote:
            I've heard horsetail fern was used as an abrasive. It seems like it would turn things green but maybe they dried it first?


            I place my horsetail grass in a loose weave bag and hang it under the deck to dry before using it. I first heard of it while attending a lute construction seminar last summer. I'm looking for the reference, but a paper from the 16thC discussing lute construction, mentions using this to finish the surface. Master Luthier Grant Tomlinson who taught the class, uses this on all his lutes.
            I've used this on strings and by handfuls while turning. The latter makes a mess, but works great.

            Aleyn
          • Karl Christoffers
            Somewhre I have a print out of an e-mail from Arne Emil Christensen, who has done a lot of research into viking shipbuilding. He wrote that horsetails were
            Message 5 of 12 , May 15, 2012
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              Somewhre I have a print out of an e-mail from Arne Emil Christensen, who has done a lot of research into viking shipbuilding. He wrote that horsetails were used by the Norse before sand/glasspaper.
               
              - Malcolm macGregor,
              An Tir

              From: Lynda Fjellman <lyndafjellman@...>
              To: "medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com" <medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 5:01 PM
              Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper

               
              Horsetail isn't really a fern.  As far as how it works as a wood smoother I couldn't say, but it was used as a pot scrubber.  It has a lot of silica in it.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equisetum

              It it native here in Western Washington and I have seen it in S. California as well.

              Ilaria

               
              I've heard horsetail fern was used as an abrasive. It seems like it would turn things green but maybe they dried it first?

              Daniel

              From: AlbionWood <albionwood@...>
              To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 6:26 PM
              Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper

               
              The simple answer is, planes. Handplanes are known from Viking Age
              archaeology (and earlier), and it's pretty easy to leave a very smooth
              flat surface with a sharp handplane on air-dried wood.

              The longer answer is to consider the entire process by which wood was
              prepared for a project, and the kinds of projects undertaken, and
              realize that the kind of smoothing accomplished by sandpaper was
              basically never needed. This is true not only for the Viking era, but
              most later medieval work as well.

              Most of the (flat-surface) medieval wooden objects I've been able to
              examine displayed plane-tracks; it was clear that no further surface
              prep had been done after planing. Carved work is of course not sanded
              or scraped, as nothing beats the surfaces left by the chisel.

              I'm not a turner and haven't examined as many turned objects, but most
              of the ones I have seen displayed very obvious tool-marks, indicating
              they had not been surfaced after turning.

              Cheers,
              Tim

              On 5/14/2012 12:56 PM, kenneth bain wrote:
              > Before the first sand paper(glass paper) what did the earlier woodworker, like during the Viking age, use to smooth thier projects?






            • Liedtke Goetz
              Didn t the horses object?  No amount of sanding with a horse tail will take out the hoof print from a kick. ________________________________ From: Karl
              Message 6 of 12 , May 15, 2012
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                Didn't the horses object?  No amount of sanding with a horse tail will take out the hoof print from a kick.


                From: Karl Christoffers <interestingclutter@...>
                To: "medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com" <medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 6:34 PM
                Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper



                Somewhre I have a print out of an e-mail from Arne Emil Christensen, who has done a lot of research into viking shipbuilding. He wrote that horsetails were used by the Norse before sand/glasspaper.
                 
                - Malcolm macGregor,
                An Tir

                From: Lynda Fjellman <lyndafjellman@...>
                To: "medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com" <medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 5:01 PM
                Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper

                 
                Horsetail isn't really a fern.  As far as how it works as a wood smoother I couldn't say, but it was used as a pot scrubber.  It has a lot of silica in it.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equisetum

                It it native here in Western Washington and I have seen it in S. California as well.

                Ilaria

                 
                I've heard horsetail fern was used as an abrasive. It seems like it would turn things green but maybe they dried it first?

                Daniel

                From: AlbionWood <albionwood@...>
                To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 6:26 PM
                Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper

                 
                The simple answer is, planes. Handplanes are known from Viking Age
                archaeology (and earlier), and it's pretty easy to leave a very smooth
                flat surface with a sharp handplane on air-dried wood.

                The longer answer is to consider the entire process by which wood was
                prepared for a project, and the kinds of projects undertaken, and
                realize that the kind of smoothing accomplished by sandpaper was
                basically never needed. This is true not only for the Viking era, but
                most later medieval work as well.

                Most of the (flat-surface) medieval wooden objects I've been able to
                examine displayed plane-tracks; it was clear that no further surface
                prep had been done after planing. Carved work is of course not sanded
                or scraped, as nothing beats the surfaces left by the chisel.

                I'm not a turner and haven't examined as many turned objects, but most
                of the ones I have seen displayed very obvious tool-marks, indicating
                they had not been surfaced after turning.

                Cheers,
                Tim

                On 5/14/2012 12:56 PM, kenneth bain wrote:
                > Before the first sand paper(glass paper) what did the earlier woodworker, like during the Viking age, use to smooth thier projects?










              • conradh@efn.org
                ... Well, many hand-tool woodworkers today still dislike using sandpaper, and go with the finish left by a good smoothing plane. Or, on difficult grain,
                Message 7 of 12 , May 16, 2012
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                  > Before the first sand paper(glass paper) what did the earlier woodworker,
                  > like during the Viking age, use to smooth thier projects?
                  >
                  >
                  Well, many hand-tool woodworkers today still dislike using sandpaper, and
                  go with the finish left by a good smoothing plane. Or, on difficult
                  grain, scrapers of metal or pieces of broken glass.

                  Sandpaper as such is mostly a thing of the power tool era I believe.
                  Power tools don't leave as nice a finish on the work, and period glues are
                  awfully brittle for holding abrasive powders to a flexible backing, and
                  paper was really too expensive for disposable uses until the 19th century.

                  Sandpaper probably came from the widespread use of sharkskin as a flexible
                  finishing abrasive, for touching up spots a plane or scraper couldn't
                  reach, or prepping a surface for paint. This was done in coastal areas
                  all over the world; Pacific island woodcarvers and NW Coast Indian
                  woodworkers used it, among various Eurasians and probably anyone with a
                  supply of sharks. Another ancestor could have been the custom of loading
                  up a cloth or scrap of leather with an abrasive powder such as sand or
                  emery and polishing with that. If you do it over a hide or smooth
                  worktable, you can gather up all the spilled grit and reuse it several
                  times. Having the cloth/leather slightly damp with water or oil helps the
                  grit to stick around a little longer.

                  You can also use metal files for smoothing wood. I do this fairly often,
                  especially on contrary bits of grain. Stone age woodworkers often use
                  stones for smoothing and polishing wooden projects, the more sophisticated
                  ones having stones of different coarseness and progressing just as we
                  would with grades of sandpaper. With either one of these techniques, it
                  helps to have a bristly brush to clean the cutting surface often, since it
                  clogs with wood powder fairly quickly.
                • conradh@efn.org
                  Oh, yeah. Horsetails (the reedlike fern relative, not the equine flyswatter!) were used to polish work by rubbing them back and forth on it or holding them
                  Message 8 of 12 , May 16, 2012
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                    Oh, yeah. Horsetails (the reedlike fern relative, not the equine
                    flyswatter!) were used to polish work by rubbing them back and forth on it
                    or holding them against turnings being spun in a lathe. This would not
                    remove lathe tool or even plane marks, just polish the surfaces the tools
                    left.

                    In a similar vein, some turners hold their own turning-chips against the
                    spinning work in handfuls, for a final polish. The work still looks
                    handmade, just shinier, and you can't beat the price!
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